Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 1, 1995
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
at The Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce
Mackinac Island, MI
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much, Congressman
Dingell for your introduction, for your leadership and service
and for your friendship.
I'm delighted to be here with all of you, and particularly
pleased to have this occasion and to share it with Mayor Archer,
and Ed McNamara, and Beth McDermott and all who have already been
And I also want to say a special word thanks to Dan Musser
and the Grand Hotel staff. It is such a pleasure to be here
again, and I am very grateful for the high standards that you.
I must confess, though, that it is a little awkward that
this occasion occurs on this evening. Many of you may know that
I grew up in the Chicago area. (Laughter.) I know. I am a rabid
Chicago sports fan. (Laughter.) I mean, I just want to lay it
all out there. (Laughter.) And I think it a little bit of cruel
and unusual punishment for any of us hockey fans to be at a
dinner, (Laughter.) listening to anyone give a speech.
(Laughter.) I knew there'd be applause somewhere about that. So
I hope that for those of you who are suffering through this and
wondering what's happening on the ice, that somebody is taping it
I really appreciate what you are doing here with this
conference and the tradition that it represents. I think it is
an exciting time for our country, and particularly for this
region of our country and especially for Detroit and southeastern
You have faced a lot of obstacles in the last decade. You
have overcome many of them, and it is now time, as you well know,
because of the subject matter of this conference, to be engaged
in a broad and important discussion about the size and scope and
role of government about the social responsibility and commitment
of business, but more fundamentally, about what kind of country
we are and what it means to be an American on the cusp of the
We all know that there are unprecedented opportunities
unfolding throughout our country and around the world. We are
all grateful for the end of the Cold War and the replacement of
totalitarianism with democracy after democracy, in places we
really didn't expect to see that flower.
We see people all over the globe seeking to emulate our
country, our democracy, our economy, and yet it is clear that
despite the model and beacon we are to so much of the rest of the
world, that we have many questions here at home, about who we
are, where we're going, what kind of futures we're building for
ourselves and our children.
We also have seen very vividly in the last weeks forces at
work here and abroad undermining those values, the values that we
hold dear; values of civility and community, of sacrifice and
service, of peace. We see antipathy too often replacing empathy.
Shouting replacing listening.
And now, as we saw to our collective horror, home-grown
terrorism exploding in America's heartland. I don't need to tell
leaders of this business community that too many Americans feel
their lives are out of sync. American families have always been
the anchor of our economy and the backbone of our country.
Yet as families try to cope in today's world, they are
confronted by pressures, and burdens, and uncertainties that
really didn't even exist in many respects a few years ago. From
the fears that come with the necessary downsizing to be
competitive, to the reality of stagnant wages, more and more
Americans are stressed out.
There is a sense that nothing is really permanent in our
society anymore, not families, not neighborhoods, not jobs, not
even our values. And so instead of the working class or the
middle class, we have now in our country what is being referred
to as the anxious class. And I'm talking about hard-working,
responsible men and women, who because of shifting employment
trends have been forced to change jobs, maybe to take on an
additional job. Many people who drive too far to work and get
home too late. People who worry about whether they can afford to
take care of their aging parents while sending their children to
college. People who are struggling to keep their businesses and
their dreams alive.
One of the great challenges we face, today, is how to
address the stress and anxiety that is weakening the American
family, how to undue the forces that erode institutions that
strengthen and preserve families.
We have unfortunately engaged in what I would call a false
debate for too long about what is afflicting our families and
what we need to do to try to help. That false debate has posited
on the one hand the idea, that all that is wrong with the
American family is the changing economy, the global economic
pressures, the kinds of stresses that are too frequently played
out in the work-place, and that is we only could get our economic
house in order, everything else would work out. On the other
hand, we have those who say it is not the economy stupid, it is
family values, and what we need to do is reinforce the values
that we espouse and that many of us feel we grew up with. And if
we can just get back to those values, then everything will work
out. I do not believe it is an either/or choice. It is
both/and. And if we do not begin to reorganize that, we will
continue to breed cynicism. We will continue to see people
giving up, and failing to take advantage of the opportunities
that are offered. We do not have a person to waste in America.
The best social program is a job. The best social policy is
a robust economy. But one does not live by jobs and the economy
alone. There is also a spiritual dimension to life. There is a
sense of connection to life.
And what we should be about the business of trying to do in
all of our individual capacities, is both to make sure people
have the opportunity to make a decent wage, to have incomes that
will support themselves, and at the same time to try and
reinforce values that support and strengthen families. That is
what we have tried to in the last couple of years. It is a very
big task. It is not a task that can be accomplished by any
particular sector of our society acting alone. It is not a
partisan task. It is an American challenge.
And it is important that we recognize that particularly when
it comes to our children, children are the product of the values
of both their families and of their society. We cannot draw a
line between the two and expect to nurture our children in the
ways that all of us would like to see occur.
If one asks, as I have for a number of years, business
leaders across our country, I don't think the answers I heard
elsewhere are any different from what you would tell me, about
what you need to compete in the new global economy. You need an
educated, healthy, productive, work force.
Earlier today I gave a commencement address at Brooklyn
College. It is one of our great public colleges. It has been a
gateway for Americans of all backgrounds to make a living for
themselves, to rise to positions of power and influence. It has
really been the door of opportunity through which men and women
and minorities and immigrants and refugees walked.
And I said there and I would say again to this audience,
part of the way we have secured the American dream for
generations of Americans, is to make sure that education was
readily available to all who were willing to except the
responsibility that comes with the offering of the opportunity.
I do find it worrisome, if one focuses on the both and that
if you believe as I do, that now more than ever we need an
educated work-force, an educated work force that understands and
can cooperate with the new concepts that many of you in this room
are implementing in your businesses.
That this very point in time, when so many American workers
are finally understanding their responsibility to improve their
own education and training skills, that we are threatened with
the possibility of reversing a historic commitment American have
made to providing educational opportunity at all levels of the
I'm very concerned that any retreat in investing in
education, is not just going to affect our educational
institutions, but it will have the ripple effect that will begin
to further undermine the opportunities available for many people
in the new economy, and thereby increasing the anxiety of so many
Americans who now already feel left out and forgotten.
This retreat on investing in our people has to be recognized
as the challenge that I think it is, to making sure that we
provide the grounding that people need in order to provide the
best incomes and lives for their own families.
What you have done in Detroit and southeastern Michigan, by
taking up the challenge of the empowerment zone, is an example of
you recognition, that we need new ways of dealing with training
our people, educating our people and employing our people. It's
a very exciting opportunity that you've seized. You would not
have received that grant if you had not had the vision to
recognize what it could mean. But I hope. (Applause.)
But I hope as you begin to implement that vision, you
recognize how much more is at stake, not only throughout your
state, but throughout our country, as we attempt to provide a
different approach to economic opportunity.
At the same time, we do have to recognize, that there is a
values issue, that people have struggled with, that I have tried
over the years, to try to bring to some marriage with the
economy, as my husband has tried repeatedly to talk about.
And I think it's important that we recognize the need for
reinforcing the kind of ideals and values that many of us took
for granted in growing up. But again, in order to reinvigorate
the quality of our life. We have to treat one another as valued
human beings, worthy of respect. (Applause.)